Putting Quinnipiac poll of Dem nominees vs. Pres.Trump in perspective

Bad poll predictions

There is a lot of attention being put on the current batch of Democrat 2020 hopefuls being able to beat President Donald Trump in 2020. That is the theme in major media based on a June 11, 2019 Quinnipiac poll. Headlines in news media have caused a misconception with statements like “major candidates”  and “All top 2020 Democrats“. Already on social media the messaging has become that “all” the candidates can beat the President.

But what is really going on? Are all the Democrats so strong that they can unseat President Trump? Is his favorability so low that a loss is inevitable? Are the choices offered by the ever more Democrat Socialist Party that appealing?

Current trends

President Trump at CPAC 2019 - credit Michael Vass

Not quite.  The current approval rating for President Trump is 43%. That’s 5 points higher than Speaker Nancy Pelosi and 15 more than Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. That’s 23 points higher than the congressional approval that has languished since 2011. The opinion on the direction of the nation sits at 37.9%, a level not consistently seen since 2012. In general, indications that the nation is not yearning for a “landslide”of change.

Looking at the numbers

Like any poll more attention is needed than just the headlines talking about it. First, Quinnipiac is a respected pollster, so that is not in question. There was a total of 1214 people that took the poll from across the country. According to Mark Bouchard, manager of survey operations for Quinnipiac University Poll, in response to our question on which States were polled,

“We survey the continental United Statesproportional to households by region according to census data.”


Northeast   20%

Midwest     22

South       36

West       21

41% (503) of those polled were a Democrat or Democrat-leaning. This is 10% higher than those that claim Democrat affiliation.But 4% less than those that claim Dem+lean according to the most recent Gallup poll (May 2019).

Who makes the cut

More critically, the Quinnipiac poll features just 6 Democrat nominee candidates. While all 24 declared candidates were a choice if the Democrat Primary were held today, they were not all part of the question about a presidential match-up. This clearly reflects the status of the Democrat nominees.

According to RealClearPolitics,the national average of the top nominees above 1% provides 8 results. If the results are considered only looking at candidates over 5%, the field narrows to just 5 candidates (losing Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke, Cory Booker, and Amy Klobuchar from highest to lowest).  The requirement to appear on the DNC debate stages is either 1% national poll interest in 3 polls OR 65,000 unique donors

It’s odd who was chosen for the candidates to be matched head to head versus President Trump. While Biden, Sanders, Warren,Harris, and Buttigieg (in order of average national poll ranking) make sense,the last choice does not. Robert ‘Beto’ O’Rourke has polled higher than the Quinnipiac choice of Cory Booker. On average and in all but 3 polls since January 18th, O’Rourke has beaten Booker. But the May 16-20th poll by Quinnipiac is one of those 3 times (the other 2 are Feb 19-22 by Harvard-Harris and Feb. 14-16 by Emerson).

Do they count?

Still, looking at the data in the June 11th poll,among just the Democrats and leaning, 14 candidates didn’t even get 1% interest in winning the Primary. Those 14 nominees match perfectly the national average under 1%.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand

 The 2 most notable names on that list being Kirsten Gillibrand and Bill de Blasio. As aside note this is particularly interesting since a June 2-6 poll by Siena College touts double digit favorability of either nominee over President Trump in New York State. Yet neither can gain national attention. In fact, de Blasio will not make the June 26th debate and Gillibrand is receiving help from her opponent Booker to remain in the race.

So what does all this mean?

The reality is that less than a third of leaning to and Democrats combined believe ANY nominee can win the Democrat Primary at this time. Of the handful that even have 1% interest (in any polls),only three have double digit interest. In order from best to worst they are Biden(30%), Sanders (19%), and Warren (15%). For comparison 13% answered Don’t Know/No Answer, a result better than 14 Democrats hopefuls combined.

This matches the national averages for those top 3 candidates comprising 59.3% of all interest. This takes into account the recent waning interest in frontrunner Biden. The next closest candidates are Harris and Buttigieg with 7.2%. Harris is recently on the decline with Buttigieg on the rise.

At the same time only 42% of those polled are actively following the 2020 race. Given all of this, with 17 months to go,declarations of any result being a “landslide” as some have described is absurd. A quick glance to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and 2008 makes it clear that such pronouncements are apt to be wrong.

Hype is important. Hype got the massively controversial Last Jedi to a billion dollars in sales. A lack of hype led to the failure of Captain Marvel and Solo. Over a year before the election, and 2 weeks before the first Democrat debate, political hype is all there is.

The only thing that really is being said in the Quinnipiac poll, is that there are 14 nominees too many. That’s being generous.  

About the Author

Michael Vass
Born in 1968, a political commentator for over a decade. Has traveled the U.S. and lived in Moscow and Tsblisi, A former stockbroker and 2014 Congressional candidate. Passionate about politics with emphasis on 1st and 2nd Amendments.

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